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OF THE HARMONY OF THE DIVINE PERFECTIONS.
A BEING of perfect goodness can possess no attribute which is inconsistent with that perfection ; for whatever is inconsistent with goodness is evil, and to affirm that a being may be perfectly good, while he possesses a single attribute which is contrary to goodness, is to say, that he may be perfectly good at the same time that he is eyil.
Since whatever is inconsistent with goodness is evil ; since it has been proved that all evil has its origin in want or weakness ; since it is universally acknowledged that God is Almighty, and therefore can have no want nor weakness, it follows, that he can possess no attribute which is inconsistent with benevolence.
We have only to determine the nature of an attribute, to decide whether or not it can belong to the Deity. If an attribute bę evil, it certạinly.cannot belong to God. Now the attribute, whatever it be, which inflicts endless misery on any being, is evil. It is not affirmed merely that the attribute is evil which inflicts endless misery on the great majority of men ; but that that attribute is so which inflicts it even upon one single individual ; and the proof is obvious.
Misery considered in itself is evil. Misery is only another word which is used to express pain of some kind or other. Pain considered simply in itself, is universally admitted to be evil. Whatever produces pain without doing any thing else is evil.
Is all pain then, evil ? No. Why? Because some pain has an ulterior object, which is the production of good. Hunger, for example, is attended with pain, but this pain is not evil, because it has an ulterior object. Its design is not to inflict suffering, but to preserve life by inducing the animal to take food. In proportion, therefore, as life is a good to the animal, the pain which excites him to use the means of preserving it, is a good.
Now all pain which has not this ulterior object being pure and simple pain, pain and nothing else, is evil. But misery inflicted through endless ages cannot possibly accomplish this ulterior object, since there is no period in which it can effect it; such misery must be evil, therefore, in the highest possible degree.
It will avail nothing to say that the object of the infliction of endless' misery is not pain, but the satisfaction of immutable justice. This does not in the least affect the argument; for the sition is, that that attribute, whatever it may
pocalled, is evil, which inflicts misery upon a being, without doing and without designing to do any thing else to him. To that being it is pure, positive, absolute evil. Whatever makes a being more miserable than happy, the whole of his existence considered, is to him positive evil. A good being must cause to every creature an excess of pleasure above pain, for he is good to it only in proportion as he does so.' But, according to the doctrine of endless punishment, God does not cause to the great majority of his creatures an excess of pleasure above pain; for he deprives them through the whole of their future existence, of every pleasurable sensation, and inflicts upon them the most unremitted and intolerable anguish.
It is usual to represent the future punishment of the wicked in the following manner : Suppose a large mountain, composed of the minutest grains of sand ; suppose one of these grains to be removed once in a million of years, the length of time which would elapse before the removal of the last of these grains infinitely surpasses our power of conception. Yet this period, immeasurable as it is, is not endless, and therefore can convey to the mind but a faint idea of the duration of the torments of the wicked. We must suppose the globe itself to be composed of grains of sand, nay all the planets of our system
and all the stars which we behold in the heavens we must suppose the particles which compose these immense and innumerable bodies, formed into one vast mass to be removed by the transposition of a single grain once in a million of years, how inconceiveable the period that must elapse before the removal of the last grain ! The facul. ties of the human mind are lost in the contem. plation of it! Yet this period is not endless, and it has been often said, that could the wicked be told, that at the termination of such a period their sufferings would cease, the tidings would fill them with inconceivable transport. But they are not permitted to indulge even this forlorn and awful hope. When this dreadful period shall have elapsed, their sufferings will be but beginning ; nay, when millions of such periods shall have passed away, their torment will be no nearer its termination, than at the instant of its commencement. And these sufferings are represented as most dreadful in their nature. No imagination, it is said, can conceive of their horror. Nó sensation of pleasure can ever again be felt by the soul, but through endless ages it must continue inconceivably miserable, without the intermission of a single instant, and without any hope of it. And this misery is inflicted for the crimes of eighty, twenty, ten years; inflicted upon the great majority of mankind; inflicted by a Being whose nature is supremely benevolent, and whose tender mercies are, at all times, over all his works !*
* I profess myself utterly unable, by any language at my command, to convey an adequate conception of the ideas which are in the minds of the advocates of this doctrine. Let one of the most respected of these advocates perform the task himself. " Be entreated," says Edwards, in his “Discourse on the Eternity of Hell Torments," pp. 28, &c., “ to consider attentively how great and awful a thing ETERNITY is. Although you cannot comprehend it the more by considering, yet you may be made more sensible that it is not a thing to be disregarded. Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme pain for ever and ever; to suffer it day and night, from one day to another, year to another, from one age to another, from one thousand ages to another; and so adding age to age, and thousands to thousands, in pain, in wailing and lamenting, groaning and shrieking, and gnashing your teeth ; with your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, with your bodies, and every member of them, full of racking torture; without any possibility of getting ease; without any possibility of moving God to pity by your cries; without any possibility of hiding yourselves from him; without any possibility of diverting your thoughts from your pain; without any possibility of obtaining any manner of mitigation, or help, or change for the better. How dismal will it be, when you are under these racking torments, to know assuredly that you never, never shall be delivered from them; to have no hope--when you shall wish that you might be turned into nothing, but shall have no hope of it; when you shall wish that you might be turned into a toad, or a serpent, but shall have no hope of it; when you would rejoice if you might but have any relief, after you shall have endured these torments millions of ages, but shall have no hope of it ; when after you have worn oạt the age of the sun, moon, and stars, in